Presence, Not Presents

In this sweet video by Ikea, children wrote letters to Santa asking him for all kinds of things, the latest toys and gadgets, typical stuff you’d expect on a child’s wish list. But when the children were asked to write another letter to their parents, all of the children asked for time spent together. “I would like it if we had dinner together more”, “I want us to spend one whole day together”, and “I want you to tickle me” were some of the heartwarming requests.

So why do we find it so difficult to reign in the “stuff” and actually give our children what they want need? What they want is simple, but not always easy. I believe it’s not easy because it requires us to slow down, get on their level, and give up some of the busy-ness that has come to define our lives.

But what if we did? What if we decided to give our children our presence, not our presents, this year?

loveisspelledtimeThe past few years, my husband’s family has implemented a wonderful tradition. Instead of giving each other (and each other’s kids) material gifts, we give each other Gifts of Togetherness. It takes more thought and planning, but a lot less money and a much bigger payoff. One year my husband and I gave our niece and nephew (ages 9 and 11 at the time) one day together every season. For Spring we did a canoe trip, for Summer we took them to Blue Bayou, for Fall we did a day in the French Quarter, and for Winter we took them to Celebration in the Oaks. They only live in Baton Rouge, but with our busy schedules, we really do have to be intentional about getting together. This was such a great way for us to plan to spend time with those kiddos at least once every few months for a really fun, quality time.

Another year, we gave them a weekend-long camping trip (to be redeemed in nice weather). And my mother-in-law once gave each of her grandchildren a day of baking together. What a great way to pass on family traditions!

What other Gifts of Togetherness can you think of? This year, I challenge you to give your presence, not presents, to your precious children. The memories will live a lot longer in their hearts than any Energizer bunny.

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